Disney's Bob Iger

Exec stays in CEO slot past original departure date of March 2015

The Walt Disney Co.’s board has extended Robert A. Iger’s tenure as CEO and chairman by 15 months beyond his previously announced retirement date, extending his deal to June 30, 2016, under his existing contractual terms as CEO.

The move, announced Monday after the stock market closed, was not a surprise. Speculation has grown this year that Iger was backing away from his 2011 pledge to relinquish the CEO title in March 2015.

“For nearly eight years as chief executive officer, Bob Iger has proven he has the unique ability to drive creative and financial success at the world’s preeminent entertainment company,” said Orin C. Smith, the independent lead director of the Disney board in a statement.

Iger’s previous deal, signed in 2011, called for him to step down from CEO slot in March 2015 while remaining as the chairman until June 30, 2016. But he has now agreed to stay on as CEO for 15 more months.

Variety reported in March that speculation had emerged that Iger would remain in the CEO slot during 2015, since  Disney is expected to see the fruits of two big deals that Iger has shepherded — the opening of a massive theme park in Shanghai and the first new “Star Wars” film from the $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm last year.

SEE ALSO: Will Disney’s CEO Shuffle Stay on Course for 2015?

Iger brokered the deal with the Chinese government in 2009 to build the $3.7 billion theme park, currently under construction. Disney owns 43% of the project, which will include the park, hotels and restaurants. As for the seventh “Star Wars” film, J.J. Abrams has come on board to direct and plans to begin shooting early next year in London.

Additionally, Disney is poised to open a $500 million “Avatar”-themed section, based on James Cameron’s franchise, inside Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in 2015. And besides the “Star Wars” movie — the first since 2005 — the film studio will release “The Avengers” and a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” in 2015.

Smith highlighted Disney’s accomplishments during Iger’s eight years as CEO. The Disney board added on the chairman title in 2010 and rewarded him with a $40 million payday last year for boosting Disney’s stock price to record levels.

“Disney has hit new heights during Mr. Iger’s tenure, with total shareholder return of 193% that dramatically exceeds the S&P 500’s 54%, and a market capitalization that has risen to $113.7 billion from $48.4 billion when he became CEO in 2005,” Smith said. “Mr. Iger’s ability to consistently deliver against a strategy of producing high-quality branded content, technological innovation and international expansion has repeatedly resulted in record revenue, net income, and earnings per share for the company.”

The announcement noted that Iger’s compensation will not change. He’s 62 years old.

“Now, Disney will continue to have the full benefit of Mr. Iger’s leadership as CEO and chairman for the duration of his tenure,” Smith said. “The board remains focused on effective succession planning, and will continue to develop a sound and appropriate process for ensuring a smooth management transition.”

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